The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the third section of its latest report on climate protection in early April. The authors of the report are cautiously optimistic about the possibility of curbing global greenhouse gas emissions, both in wealthy countries and in the Global South. According to the IPCC, however, extensive investments in zero-carbon technologies will be needed in order to cap global warming at 1.5°C.
Fighting the climate crisis with CO₂ filtration
Using direct air capture technology developed at ETH, Climeworks filters excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. “We founded Climeworks with the vision to provide the world a tech that has the potential to reverse climate change,” explains Climeworks Co-CEO Jan Wurzbacher.
The latest injection of funding will be mainly invested in new large-scale air capture facilities and additional employees – a move that will significantly accelerate capacity to permanently remove CO₂ from the air. “We hope that our technology will play a critical role in keeping global warming below 1.5°C,” adds Wurzbacher. The financing was co-led by Partners Group, a Swiss asset management company, and GIC, the sovereign wealth fund of Singapore, with participation from other players such as Swiss Re.
Green technology at ETH Zurich
The great market potential of green technologies can be seen not only in the recent success of Climeworks but also in the rapid growth of ETH spin-off company Synhelion, which uses solar reactors to transform CO2 filtered from the air into climate-neutral fuels. Working together with its partners, Synhelion is now planning to build its first industrial-scale facility for producing climate-friendly kerosene in Germany.
The growing willingness of venture capitalists to invest in young companies from ETH is also entirely in line with ETH President Joël Mesot’s strategy: “ETH wants to make its contribution to addressing the major global challenges. I am therefore pleased that the solutions generated by spin-offs from our university are meeting with increasing success on the market.”
Growing family of ETH unicorns
With an injection of funding totalling CHF 600 million, Climeworks is clearly a so called unicorn, i.e. a start-up with a market valuation in excess of CHF 1 billion. The Zurich-based cleantech company is the latest member of a growing family of ETH unicorns. It was only recently announced that software company Scandit, founded in 2009, had received USD 150 million in new capital in a financing round, thereby also achieving unicorn status. ETH spin-off AutoForm, founded in 1995, transferred ownership in November 2021. US investor group Carlyle purchased it for around US 2 billion, according to press reports. GetYourGuide, an online travel and leisure platform founded by ETH doctoral students in 2009, attracted attention in 2019 with a financing round of around CHF 500 million and has since also achieved unicorn status.